Cheers to all our Canadian readers (outside of Quebec) in particular and to everyone in general on Victoria Day! A teacup toast to you all! But wait, what is it? You Canadians know all about it, but the rest of us wallow in ignorance, so bear with us while we play catch-up.
What Is Victoria Day
Basically, this is a national holiday in Canada (except for Quebec) to remember Queen Victoria. Thus the holiday’s name. The Queen, born on May 24, 1819, ascended to the throne on June 20, 1837, following the death of three uncles and her father. She reigned until her death on January 22, 1901, and was the longest-reigning monarch of the United Kingdom. The British Empire expanded quite a bit during that reign even though her powers as Queen of the United Kingdom were reduced while the House of Commons grew in importance and political power.
It all started as a celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday. In 1901 after her death the 25th of May became Empire Day and her official birthday was still celebrated on the 24th of May. This changed in 1953 when the Queen’s birthday celebration was moved to the Monday preceding the 25th (as of the posting of the article that means the 19th). Five years later Empire Day was renamed to Commonwealth Day and moved to the 2nd Monday in March. But the celebration of Victoria Day, as it was then called, stayed at the Monday before the 25th. Phew! A lot of changes there.
How It’s Celebrated
Victoria Day is an occasion for fireworks (Toronto and Hamilton put on the best-known and most impressive displays), parades (the most notable is in Victoria, British Columbia), a long-weekend celebration marking the end of Winter with gardeners digging in and getting things planted, and amusement parks and outdoor recreational facilities opening for the warm weather seasons. On Prince Edward Island, it’s the beginning date for stores to be open on Sundays (up until Christmas Day). Most people have the day off from work (not always as a paid holiday), and children get the day off from school. Post offices are usually closed throughout Canada, and public transportation is often on a reduced schedule (to the chagrin of those who depend on it to get around). Stores may be open or closed as their owners decide.
Some Teas to Celebrate the Day
First, serve on tea wares in a Royal Albert pattern (Prince Albert was Queen Victoria’s much-beloved husband whom she mourned for many years after his death). Supposedly, one of the Queen’s maids in waiting was Anna, Duchess of Bedford, and is often credited with starting an official Afternoon Tea Time. The Queen started hosting her own tea parties after hearing about this, having liked the practice so much. However, a quick online search does not show what kind of tea she enjoyed, although tea vendors have put together tea blends and claim they are what she probably drank. I will make a couple of recommendations here that seem to fit:
- Twining’s Earl Grey and English Breakfast which would both have been around during her reign.
- Basic green teas from China such as gunpowder.
- A nice Darjeeling tea blend.
Enjoy the day!
See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.
© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.